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August 24, 2011

Not just an inconvenience

If you were to draw up an inventory of your community’s most valued assets, the list may well contain the post office, general store, local pub, community centre, or a local park amongst many others. One that might not appear on the list is the public loo. Not because it isn’t seen as  important but because its existence has always been taken for granted.  Arisaig Community Trust have discovered that this is no longer a safe assumption

Local outrage at Highland Council’s decision to close the public conveniences in Arisaig village at the height of the summer season has resulted in Arisaig Community Trust taking on the responsibility to keep them open, as from July 1st.

Arisaig, Caol and Kinlochleven were the Lochaber loos set for closure at the end of June, together with a further ten Highland-wide. The shock decision by Highland Council gave very little time for alternative solutions to be put into place but the directors of Arisaig Community Trust were up for the challenge and have spent the last two months in discussion with the Council.

Chair Ann Martin said ‘Although we will be in receipt of an annual sum of over £3000 Highland Comfort Scheme grant, we have done our sums and the running costs will be well over £6000 a year. We need to do a lot of local fundraising but we’re sure Arisaig residents will support us in keeping this essential service open. This is absolutely what the Trust was set up to do – to save a local service from closure. Although it’s been a difficult couple of months with a lot of hard work put in by the directors, we never had any doubt about taking them on. They are the first public toilets travellers come across after leaving Fort William and are very well used by bus trippers, lorry drivers and boat users as well as car passengers – and locals. To close them would have been crazy.

‘The Trust is running the loos under a temporary licence from the Council while a contract for sale is drawn up. We will buy the building for £1 but overheads are heavy – supplies, paying a cleaner, insurance, rates, electricity, repairs – and we are hoping the Council will do some work on them to improve their standard before we buy.’ The Trust’s first fundraiser will be to serve refreshments in the Astley Hall on Friday July 29th.

Other public conveniences across the region are set for closure next year.